Desolation Canyon

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Desolation Canyon
BLM photo of Desolation Canyon
Desolation Canyon is located in Utah
Desolation Canyon
Desolation Canyon is located in the US
Desolation Canyon
Location Green River (Colorado River)
NRHP reference # 68000057
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 24, 1968[1]
Designated NHL November 24, 1968[2]

Desolation Canyon is a remote canyon on the Green River in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Utah. It was traversed by John Wesley Powell in 1869 as part of an expedition that was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. At its deepest point, a relief of over 5,000 feet exists from river level to the unseen rim of the Tavaputs plateau. It is said to be one of the most remote areas in the lower 48.

Desolation Canyon was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968.[2]

Over the last few thousand years, different groups of humans have occupied the area and left their traces behind. Fremont and Ute pictographs and petroglyphs are abundant in Desolation and its numerous tributary canyons, such as Nine Mile and Range Creek. Fremont granaries, as well as several abandoned homesteaders' ranches, testify to the agricultural potential of riparian alluvial fans, which are larger in Desolation than in any other Canyon of the Colorado - Green river system. Originally homesteaded by the Seabolt family in the early 1900s, Rock Creek ranch is still used as a horse pasture by the ranches' contemporary owners, which makes it the last property in the canyon still commercially in use.

During the Spring, Summer, and Fall months, many boaters each year make the 83 mile trip through Desolation and Gray Canyons from Sand Wash to Swasey's Rapid, just above Green River, Utah. This section is managed by the Price office of the Bureau of Land Management, which issues permits. An additional permit must be obtained to camp or hike on the Eastern side of the river, which is part of the Ute Reservation for most of the canyon's length. As of Spring 2015, the Utes are no longer offering permits to non-tribal members, however enforcement is effectively non-existent. Over 60 named class two and three rapids challenge boaters, and the gradual increase in size and difficulty of rapids make it an ideal place for beginner to intermediate boaters to develop their skills. At high water (over 20,000 cfs), Joe Hutch Canyon Rapid (Cow Swim) approaches a class IV difficulty. Rapids in the canyon are big enough to swamp an open canoe at any water level.


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Desolation Canyon". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°25′00″N 110°00′40″W / 39.41667°N 110.01111°W / 39.41667; -110.01111